Report details universities’ efforts on sexual assault

Stanford is among the U.S. universities included in a new report by the Association of American Universities summarizing campus initiatives to combat sexual violence. The report presents an opportunity to learn from others, Provost Persis Drell says.

A new report released today by the Association of American Universities describes the actions that major universities across the country, including Stanford, are taking to prevent and respond to sexual violence.

The association consists of 62 leading universities across the country. The primary purpose of the new report, AAU leaders said, is to assist universities in combating sexual violence by collating data and examples of the efforts that their peer institutions are making.

At Stanford, Provost Persis Drell welcomed the report, saying Stanford intends to learn from the work of other universities and continue improving its efforts to combat sexual violence.

“Every university, Stanford included, is deeply involved in improving its approach to preventing and responding to sexual violence,” Drell said. “The AAU report provides an important opportunity for us to learn from the experiences of other universities and to continue developing new approaches here at Stanford.

“Sexual and relationship violence continues to occur far too frequently in our community. I want to look at every possible solution, I want us to work in partnership with students on those solutions, and I want us to communicate openly about both our progress and our challenges.”

Drell will provide, for instance, an update to the campus community later this spring on Stanford’s experiences with the first year of its pilot Student Title IX Process.

The AAU reached out to all of its member institutions, including Stanford, to prepare the report summarizing actions being taken in universities across the country. “While the report is not exhaustive, we hope the case studies and resources in this report will be useful not only to AAU universities but to all colleges and universities as we work to reduce sexual assault and misconduct on our campuses,” AAU President Mary Sue Coleman wrote in a letter accompanying the report.

The report highlights initiatives at various universities, exploring a range of issues including the following:

Campus climate surveys: All of the 55 universities that provided information for the AAU report have conducted campus climate surveys to gain an improved understanding of students’ experiences with sexual assault and other sexual offenses. Nine of the responding institutions used the AAU’s campus climate survey; another 16 used the AAU survey and another survey; and 30, including Stanford, used another survey.

Conversations will be occurring in the fall about the design and administration of the next campus climate survey at Stanford, Drell said.

Education and training: All universities in the AAU report have undertaken efforts to enhance their education and training efforts on campus. Universities are using a variety of approaches, according to the report, including online training, in-person workshops, courses, theater productions and dramatizations, video content and other approaches.

The report mentions a new program at Stanford, developed by students in collaboration with the SARA Office, called Beyond Sex Ed: Consent & Sexuality at Stanford. This in-person training launched last fall as one of a series of educational programs for first-year undergraduates. It will be expanded in 2017-18 – juniors will also receive the training, sophomores will have a second-year learning experience building on the first year’s program, and a program for seniors is in development. A related new program at Stanford is the dorm-based SAVE: Stanford Anti-Violence Educators program, developed by the SARA Office with the ASSU Sexual Assault Prevention Committee.

Stanford is looking to other institutions for inspiration, as well. One effort now being developed by the SARA Office and researchers at the School of Medicine will bring to Stanford a pilot sexual assault prevention program developed by Dr. Charlene Senn at the University of Windsor in Canada. The program is designed to teach college-age women how to identify risk, interrupt unwanted behavior and employ self-defense strategies. A corollary program for men is also being developed, focusing on challenging cultural norms about sex and masculinity and teaching “upstander” strategies. Both programs will be inclusive of LGBTQ and intersex experiences.

Student support: All universities in the AAU report also said they had developed or enhanced programs to assist survivors, and most had developed new programs for specific student populations, as well. Examples include expanded staffing to provide counseling to survivors along with the creation of new therapy and support groups, among other efforts.

Similarly, at Stanford this spring the Confidential Support Team is offering a new weekly Skills Support Group, offering a safe space for students to better understand the impact of trauma on their lives and to develop skills for coping safely with trauma symptoms. In addition, a weekly Healing Art Workshop begun this winter by the Confidential Support Team and the SARA Office is continuing this spring, inviting students to explore therapeutic art-making in a safe and supportive atmosphere.

With support and advocacy from the ASSU, Stanford also is preparing to begin using a new tool first piloted at Pomona College and the University of San Francisco to provide students with an additional way of documenting and reporting sexual assault. The program, called Callisto, offers a third-party online platform that allows a survivor to confidentially document an experience with unwanted sexual conduct, time-stamp it in a secure web environment, and choose when to submit it to the university. A student also can opt to only have the record reported to the Title IX Office in the instance that another user in the system identifies the same perpetrator.

The system is now being prepared, and more details will be available in May when it is ready for Stanford students to begin using on a three-year pilot basis.

Resources: More than 90 percent of the universities in the AAU report said they had increased financial resources for victim support, student training, and faculty and staff training.

The AAU report noted that Stanford has added more than $3 million in recent years to its general funds budget for expanded support, education and adjudication efforts addressing sexual violence. More than a dozen staff positions in the university now focus on these issues, including in the Title IX Office, Confidential Support Team and SARA Office.

More information on Stanford’s efforts to combat sexual violence is available on the Not Alone website, along with links to campus resources and support information.